Sonnabend, 27-Oktober-2001


German version


INTERVIEW with the president of the organising committee of the 35th World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and the Vlaaamse Turnliga (VTL) Mr  Marc SCHOENMAEKERS:

"Organising these world championships has been one of the greatest challenges in the history of the Vlaamse Turnliga (VTL) and the Federation of General and Sports Gymnastics (AFG). Together, we have done everything to make sure that the delegations, guests, press and the fans feel welcome and have excellent conditions"

:   Mr. Schoenmaekers, this is the second time Belgium is hosting a major international gymnastics event at the beginning of a new century. The first time was in 1903, when the World Championships were held in Antwerp. Will these be historical Worlds?

SCHOENMAEKERS:  "I hope so, but we will only be able to judge that after they are over. First of all we have noticed that there are more gymnasts competing in these world championships than ever before. On the other hand the organisation is getting more and more difficult with the increasing number of athletes. The FIG will have to rethink the preliminary competition. We need events with top gymnasts only. Why should we set up top training facilities for 600 athletes for an entire week? Shouldn't they train at home?

:   Recent events in  the USA and the political situation that followed have cast a shadow on this peacfeul competition. In what way was the organisation of this event influenced and what special measures have you taken?
SCHOENMAEKERS: "We have more than doubled our seurity efforts! We coordinated our work in the final phase with the Ghent police, the state security and the Belgian Ministry of the Interior. Scrupulous securtiy checks during accreditation  guarantee that only genuinely authorised people are allowed into the security zones. THe arena is checked thouroughly in the mornings and the evenings. We have a security lock- up system and surveillance at night, including dogs. This ensures the security of all areas. We have installed additional cameras, but I think everything has been installed in such a way that our guests don't notice very much and will hopefully feel well."

:   Some of the top nations, like China and Japan, have either cancelled or only sent reduced contingents of athletes. What is your opinion on this?
SCHOENMAEKERS:  "Japan was the only country to cancel because of security issues. Of course, we have to respect their decision. China had different, internal resaons that we couldn't do anything about either. We are happy that so many others came, more nations than ever before. We did have discussions with the FIG prior to the competition how we would go about securing an event like this in case of cancellation. The large part of the costs had already been incurred when the dreadful events happened on September 11 and it would have been a huge financial loss. There should be a trust fund set up in the future for this sort of crisis which unfortunately can't be excluded anymore.
:  Talking to the athletes they were very positive about the training conditions in the halls in the EXPO. The logistics of transport must have been very difficult. How do feel about the organisation before the competition and what aspect was the most difficult?
SCHOENMAEKERS:  "Dealing with the specific problems and questions of transport and accommodation had to be organised in an almost military fashion over the past six months.  Ghent is beautiful but small town with heavy traffic.We only managed this with help from the police."

:   The FIG Council decided on a new competition format in  the spring. How will this be received by the public and the media.?
SCHOENMAEKERS:  "Dropping one touch warm-ups is certainly better for the audience and the media. We have a centre for artistic gymnastics and acrobatics right next to the Topsporthal Vlaanderen which was opened in the summer, and offers top conditions for warm-up. Belgian TV will broadcast in the evening, and sometimes even live."

:  The Worlds have been given wings by a figure from Greek mythology. Will they go down in history and the PEGASES festival and how do feel about the reactions this new apparatus has received so far?.
SCHOENMAEKERS:  "I think this marks the beginning of a great technical development. From what I have seen here so far, the vaults are higher, more beautiful, longer and, above all, safer. I am eager to see what gymnasts and coaches will come up with using the the new conditions the PEGASES offers. "

:   There was some  drama concerning the non-nomination of the Belgian men's team. What is the latest news on this and what is your position as VTL president?
SCHOENMAEKERS:  "Our Men's Technical Committee - 10 people, five each from the VTL and the AFG- sat down in February and decided that our men's team would have to score at least 200 points to contend for a place in the middle field. They only made this once, at our National Championships (202) and then never again (192/194/197) - they didn't make the mark in their last competition against Denmark either. So,  we took a vote in the MTC and the result was 6:4 against sending a team. We considered this to be a genuinely democratic process. We regret that the gymnasts took legal action to get them into this competition. There are some discrepancies in Belgian gymnastics and there is still some unfinished internal business between VTL and AFG."

:   The opening ceremony is today. The week's competition is about to begin. What are the 3 biggest wishes the president of the organising committee has?
SCHOENMAEKERS:  "First of all: No security problems ...! Secondly: Happy Guests, athletes and top routines. Thirdly: That the organising committe will survive these world championships financially after the final bill has been paid!"

Mr. Schoenmaker, thank you for taking the time for this interview.

  (Interview by Eckhard Herholz , GYMmedia )